The scientifically-proven benefits of meditation are becoming more widely known. However, to someone unfamiliar with mediation, the practice can still seem intimidating.
Most people incorrectly assume that meditation involves thinking of nothing and ‘emptying the mind.’ Instead, mediation is better understood as focusing on one thing.
Typically, the mind is like a wandering child. It’s attention shifts from one thought to another. Maybe one second it dwells on tonight’s dinner, the next moment it moves onto something a co-worker said, the next on an email that needs to be replied to, and finally on some event from years past. Meditation, then, involves training the mind to sit still.
Just like there are hundreds ways to train the body, meditation also has many diverse forms.
Here are my five favorite ways to meditate.
(For all of these methods, except the last, it is best to sit comfortably in a quiet room, with eyes closed and a straight back.)
Because of it simplicity, counting breath is a great way to start a meditation habit.
By counting breath you can bridge the gap between the conscious and unconscious mind. Because counted breaths are typically deeper than normal breath, it results in greater oxygenation of the blood, better health, and more energy.
How it works: breathe in for a count of six, hold for a count of three, breathe out for a count six, hold for a count of three.
If you like, you can change the counts. 5-2-5-2 and 4-4-4-4 are also popular. Also, you can try a more irregular pattern, for example, in for four, hold for eight, out for eight, hold for four.
Along with counting breath, focusing meditations are another type of meditation suitable for beginners. Requiring greater concentration, focusing meditations have a deeply calming effect which often last throughout the day.
How it works: Focus on a certain aspect of your body. I typically focus on my natural breath (without attempting to control it) or areas of my body (such as my hands, forehead, or shifting between all the parts which are in contact). As with all types of meditation, the mind will naturally wander. The key is to not judge such wandering. Instead, observe that your mind has wandered. Then draw your focus back to the object of focus.
Despite the checkered reputation of its founder, transcendental meditation offers a unique way to focus the mind. It is more mentally involving that other meditations. Yet it produces a far more lucid, almost hallucinatory experience.
How it works: Repeat a mantra, first aloud and then in your mind. The mantra should be made up word which is meaningless. For example, you wouldn’t use ‘car’ or ‘e-mail’ since this would cause your mind to think of and emotionally respond to your experience of cars and e-mails. This type of meditation is best done for periods of 20 minutes or longer.
This is what I consider the essence of meditation. It trains the mind to be uncritically focused on the present, the optimal state for most daily activities.
How it works: Rather than focusing on anything specific, focus deeply on the present moment. Observe its transience, the way it continually slips by. Observe your own awareness of the present.
Rather than a traditional meditation, mini mediation can be done anywhere at any time. I often do it when I have a free moment, or sometimes even when I’m driving. Mini meditation involves ridding oneself of extraneous thoughts and focusing on the present and immediate surroundings.
How it works: Take one minute to focus on the present, your surroundings, sensations and the things you can observe in the moment. Instead of allowing your mind to wander on various thoughts or critical judgements, focus on the things around you, the sights, sounds, and movements. Do it a few times throughout the day to boost presence and a sense of well-being.
Meditation doesn’t have to be complex or adhere to a specific form.
In fact, any practice which focuses your mind for an extended period of time is meditation.
Try doing these different types of meditation for 10-20 minutes a day. The benefits of a daily meditation habit more than make up for the time you devote to it. Meditating daily will deliver real benefits in terms of happiness, health, discipline, and well-being.
Call To Action
Start a mediation practice today. Begin by doing 10 minutes of meditation either in the morning or evening. Try it for five days straight. Let us know in the comments what sort of changes or results you notice.